Nissan Engineer Says 500-Mile Range Electric Vehicles Are Possible, But Certainly Not Viable

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 40

Euro-Spec 2013 Nissan LEAF

Euro-Spec 2013 Nissan LEAF

A 500-mile range electric vehicle is easily doable, but not at all feasible, according to Tom McCabe, senior engineer of customer orientated engineering at Nissan.

A 500-Mile Pack Would Be Far Too Big and Heavy, Says a Nissan Engineer

A 500-Mile Pack Would Be Far Too Big and Heavy, Says a Nissan Engineer

As McCabe explains, an electric vehicle is capable of almost limitless range, but at what expense?

McCabe says that a 500-mile EV would be far too expensive for buyers today.  Aside from expense, McCabe says the biggest hurdle with a 500-mile EV would be weight.

Quoting McCabe:

“What’s really important to realize though is that batteries are expensive and customers ultimately have to pay for them. They’re also heavy. So what you’ve got to bear in mind is that technically it’s possible to make a car with a very long range, but then for 95 per cent of your usage you’re going to be carrying around a very heavy car with a huge investment in battery performance.  We’ve always got the discussion between the weights of the battery, the cost of the battery, and how far people want to go. So we’ve got to make a viable product for people. For example if we gave you a car with 500 miles, it would be a very heavy car, it would be a very expensive car and we’d also have to completely change the package.”

Obviously, weight would be a huge issue, one that’s not easily overcome.

Expense, on the other hand, can be minimized over time.

Even though McCabe says that 500-mile electric is not feasible, that doesn’t mean that Nissan isn’t trying to improve range.  McCabe states:

“In the next five years, obviously we’re looking at other EVs and we’ll continue to look at how we can improve range.”

Even the latest Nissan LEAF boasts a decent bump in range compared to previous model years, but you shouldn’t expect too see a 500-mile electric Nissan anytime soon.  Not that we ever did, but McCabe’s words confirm that it’s just not gonna happen.

Source: T3

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40 responses to "Nissan Engineer Says 500-Mile Range Electric Vehicles Are Possible, But Certainly Not Viable"

  1. Josh says:

    And ironically Elon Musk is targeting 500 mile range for a future pack for the Model S…

  2. IDK says:

    OK…how about just a 200 mile range? :/

    1. Bonaire says:

      How about 225? When does it end? 120 is probably all 90% of the population need for their daily driving. Many can do it with 80 or 60.

  3. Fishhawk says:

    Just the incentive that’s needed; when someone says it can’t, someone will be inspired to figure out how.

  4. Erik says:

    Ok. How about an honest 100 mile range (and figure out how to fix the Guess o meter!)

    1. David Murray says:

      Agreed. A true 100 mile range, especially if that were possible at highway speeds, would make a significant difference. And if you could recharge that in 20 minutes or less and get another 100 freeway miles, that would be somewhat tolerable for most people even for long distance travel. Obviously Tesla has this beat already, but I think for an entry-level EV for those who can’t afford a Tesla, this would be “good enough” to get a lot more people off of gasoline.

      So a simple trip from Ft.Worth to Austin might add 3 recharges along the way, but if at least one of those were combined with a stop to eat then I think that would be tolerable.

      1. Anderlan says:

        Right. As Elon’s highlighted, the number of QC stations needed decreases exponentially with range. Tesla is banking on a 150-200 mile car design for the next gen. That being said, even the 200 mile Tesla is a bloody TANK of a heavy-assed car. I want LEAF to go up to 100 or 150 miles one day, but I’m also sad the current 80-mile LEAF is already heavier than every other car I’ve had.

  5. Spin says:

    How about 40 pound removable batteries that can be kept charged in your garage until needed? These could be installed in the vehicle by the owner when increased range is required. This option could turn a 100 mile EV into a 200 mile EV in minutes, by just lifting a few hundred pounds of batteries into the trunk, and clipping them in. If you only require increased range occasionally, rent these batteries at the dealer.

    1. Anderlan says:

      Manufacturers could offer a secondary pack for rental for trips (perhaps as a dealer service?). Already Model S owners are anticipating being able to swap their 60kWh pack for 80kWh packs at swapping stations.

  6. Warren says:

    Yes. A real 100 mile range is important. That is what I have on my electric assist bicycle, and it is a minimum requirement. As for the Guess-O-meter. Get rid of it. A simple SOC meter, and real-time watt usage meter are all that is needed.

  7. Nelson says:

    With current battery chemistry, 500 mile EV range is absurd. All we really need is 200 or 300 mile range. Why is Tesla the only automotive manufacturer that realizes this obvious EV range requirement?


    1. Gene says:

      “Why is Tesla the only automotive manufacturer that realizes this obvious EV range requirement?”

      Tesla’s the only one willing to charge consumers the cost of the battery to achieve that range. Nissan could probably do it with their Infinity division. Count me as one of those not willing to spend that much on a battery at the moment, though there are clearly thousands of people willing to do so with their Tesla purchases. If I were Nissan, I’d be wary of going into that niche market now as Tesla has probably left only crumbs in terms of people willing to spend $70k+ for an EV. The bulk of potential consumers are in the $35k- range.

  8. Dan Frederiksen says:

    It’s a waste to have long range.
    You want moderate range like 150km and blitz charge so you can just recharge it in minutes if you need to go further on very rare occasion.

    1. Anderlan says:

      There is currently no blitz charge in “minutes”. It takes 20-30 minutes to move a Lithium cell from 20-80%. You can’t decrease the size of the battery and increase the charge time. Your phone takes 25 minutes to blase from 20 to 80, and so does a Tesla S85.

      But, on the short range side of this argument, I’d love a 30 mile cheap runabout, but I’d also pay for a 150 mile cruiser. I’m thinking maybe like a Twizy or Scion iQ, and a Tesla Bluestar. But both are more expensive than I’d pay right now. So, right now, my prospects are this: 80 mile LEAF for $20k take-home price–hooray for compromise?

      1. Anderlan says:

        Sorry about that, I missed what you were saying earlier. So, full agreement. Compromise, for now.

      2. Dan Frederiksen says:

        Actually blitz charge is quite possible.
        A123 cells can charge at 4C, that’s 15 minutes for a full charge.
        Say 150km range, that’s only 5 minutes to charge 50km.

        And lithium titanate batteries can charge much faster still and toshiba managed to get them up to a workable 90Wh/kg density.

        If only the nitwit automakers had the presence of mind to do the things that are possible.

        And the lighter and more aerodynamic you make the car, the smaller battery you need.

  9. vdiv says:

    How about modular removable by the user battery packs in addition to the main battery? Today I need to drive 20 miles, so i don’t need to carry any extra packs. Tomorrow I need to go to town and will drive 100 miles, add say two packs. Next weekend we’re going to the beach — need all 8 packs. Though still not enough capacity, I can swap them at the 7-Eleven for fully charged ones and keep driving.

  10. Dave K. says:

    I’m a Leaf owner and I think the Leaf is fine as is, I seldom drive more than 50-60 miles in a day and it does that easily. I have charging at work (120V) and Atlanta has a reasonable amount of public infrastructure and is getting more all the time. When I need more I swap cars with my wife and drive her Prius. Sure, I would like more range but would I pay an extra $20,000 for a 200mile battery? no way! I just don’t need it! If you do buy a PHEV or a hybrid.
    Will batteries get better and cheaper? Sure they will, but the Leaf is great the way it is, and will work just fine for most of us most of the time.

    1. Josh says:

      Would you pay $5k to double the size of the LEAF pack? Living in Houston, I know I would even with 18 CHAdeMOs in the city. If for nothing else, to keep the range useable after 3 – 5 years of capacity loss.

      1. Aaron says:

        There are 18 CHAdeMO high-speed DC chargers in Houston? I’m jealous. Dallas has a lot of L2 charge points, but only 1 (maybe 2?) CHAdeMOs.

        1. Josh says:

          I count 23 DC charger in Dallas just from eVgo alone. You might not have a subscription, but a LEAF or MiEV driver that does a lot of driving at least has the subscription as an option in Houston and Dallas.

      2. Bonaire says:

        What people really need are either L1 or L2 spots at workplaces. Fast charging is fine – but if everyone had reliable at-work charging, far more EVs would be sold and adapted into the workplace.

    2. Warren says:

      So you use the Leaf for commuting mostly. Would you sacrifice the back seat for a 100 mile range and a lower price than you paid?

      1. Josh says:

        The scenario I was proposing was if there was a magical new battery chemistry that used the same volume with twice the range, but double the cost. It would be sold as an optional, upgraded battery. I have a feeling it would sell well, but I don’t see Nissan doing this. Their ICE lineup uses the same engine across many vehicle lines and does not typically offer engine choices on vehicles.

        The usefulness of the LEAFs interior space is one of its best selling points and I don’t think that should be sacrificed to add more battery capacity.

  11. Lou Grinzo says:

    Everyone, including the car companies, is guessing about what the sweet spot is for battery cost vs. range vs. weight. This is a mistake, as there is no one right answer for everyone, just an answer that maximizes a car company’s profits.

    For my driving patterns, I have an experience very similar to Dave K above — I get by perfectly fine with a 2013 Leaf, although I do all my charging at home.

    Car companies need to offer a selection of battery pack sizes (more than the two on the Tesla S; probably 3 or 4). That will tell them what people “really” want, plus it will let people get exactly what they need/want if that’s different from the average or profit maximizing single-size-pack number. And that means more EV sales, more environmental benefit, etc.

    1. KenZ says:

      Here here! Agreed. Granted, you may not get a leaf with pack range options from 80 miles to 300 miles, but if the leaf offerend 80/100/120, while Tesla offers 200/300/400 in the future, that pretty much covers it.

  12. JP says:

    I just drove 700 miles each way from Seattle to Sacramento with the family. The longest we lasted in the car without stopping was about 4 hours or 250 miles; and it was excruciating (OK, it was on a Corolla). But really, a range of 300 miles with 4 people plus luggage and heat or AC running would be equivalent of today gas range.

    The stops were always about 15-20 minutes (Burger King or McDonald’s bathroom and treats). So two stops with fast chargers would have been enough.

    1. Aaron says:

      You, sir, have just described the Model S.

      1. Bonaire says:

        Or, described a family’s 2nd car trip. They can leave their 100-mile BEV at home and rent a mini-van or some other type of car. I’m sure that this trip just-described, was an outlier event. People don’t “need” what they can “arrange”. So, I believe that a family of say 4 people will have one or more EVs and one or more “longer-trip” cars in their stable. Designing around outlier conditions and then saying we “need” that outlier condition always is dumb. It’s like buying a hot-tub and using it 5 times a year but keeping it hot and full of chemicals all year long. It’s a dumb proposition and wasteful.

      2. Bryan Whitton says:

        And a lot more comfortable to boot. 🙂

    2. Warren says:

      Yes, and such an EV will cost over $65K for many years yet.

      We will be making a longer trip than that in my wife’s Corolla this summer. But we do this once year.

      If I bought an EV, a Spark would make much more sense for day-to-day driving.

      With the extra $35K, I could rent a very nice touring car once a year, and pay for the vacations!

      1. Bonaire says:

        Exactly – this is good, rational thinking. However, people say they won’t buy an EV until you can fill it up in 5-minutes and go 500 miles. They just don’t get it. People aren’t yet ready to “adapt” to change, so why bother changing. Glad we have people, like yourself, who understand how to adapt.

      2. Bryan Whitton says:

        Exactly what I have been saying for two years now. Why be burdened with the ICE overhead for 1 or 2 trips a year. Rent what you need for the trips and take the savings for the rest of the year.

        It also means you can rent what you want for the trip. Gee, going to Disneyland this year with the kids, rent a Van or SUV. Going to Vegas with the wife or girlfriend rent a convertible.

      3. Gene says:

        Yet another: Exactly!

  13. Fishhawk says:

    The issue is not range, it’s recharge time and availability of charge stations. My Volt has a range of 330 miles when charged up and the tank is (mostly) full. Yet I wouldn’t hesitate to take it across country because I know I can always fill with gas anywhere along the way, in 10 minutes or less. Solving the infrastructure problem is the big deal.

    1. Brian says:

      Well, they’re both an issue, but I agree that many seem to want to solve one with the other. e.g. a car with such stupidly long range that it doesn’t need infrastructure along the way, just at the end points.

      I personally think Tesla has it nailed. A car with 200-300 miles of range and an intelligently laid-out supercharging network. This is the technology that can change the world. The problem is now one of cost.

      Today’s Leaf could never replace 100% of the cars on the road, even with a CHAdeMO ever 5 miles across the country. Driving 50 miles between each 20 minute (20-80%) quick charge just isn’t going to cut it.

  14. Bonaire says:

    The only people who “need” a 500-mile electric car are typically those who state that they wouldn’t buy one until they had 500-mile range. Those are some outliers who probably will never buy an EV or eventually will learn that they truly don’t need such a vehicle. 120-mile BEVs will revolutionize the EV landscape if they are affordable. The Leaf is almost there but it’s a little small and a little ugly. But something sized like a CUV or chevy Malibu with 120-mile of summer-time range is a fantastic next step in the EV landscape. But it must be affordable and no more than say 15% of the price of a new ICE-only vehicle of similar construction (after rebates/tax incentives). I’m sure many people would pay a 15% premium when buying the car knowing that the cost per mile once they are driving it is far less – and it’s less polluting, less noisy, less heat-generating than a comparable ICE.

    1. Warren says:

      Well I am an outlier too. I want efficiency over all else. A vehicle the size of a Malibu is too big. I’d pay extra for a small efficient car, like the EV1!

  15. bloggin says:

    It would work so much better if auto manufacturers would share the same or a couple different battery levels or classes of battery packs, and individually they do their magic with the software that connects the common battery packs. EVs would evolve so much quicker.

    I think this is happening to a limited extent with Tesla, GM and Ford all using Panasonic batteries, but building their own packs.

    Currently Tesla could lead this with full underbody packs. Nissan with integrated packs, and Ford with partially integrated/retrofit packs.

  16. Charge Infrastructure is as, or more important as Battery Size when considering an EVs Range.

    A 120-150 mile real-world range meets over 95% of normal driving needs. A option for a 200 mile range would be nice, but would see little use unless offered as upgrade/rental option. The added expense (& weight) for greater that a 150 mile battery is better spend on building charge station infrastructure (as can be shared by many EVs and quick charge stations have longer life at lower rates of depreciation)

    More importantly charge station infrastructure costs will be greatly reduced to support a 120-150 mile range EV. Theoretically about 1/3 the number of stations woud be required to create a connected highway networt support vs. a network supporting 75 mile range of LEAF today (at highway speeds). Level1 provides 5 miles range per hour (MRPH), Level2 10-20 MRPH, Level3 200+ MRPH.

    In U.S. (mid-July) the number of LEAF’s will pass 30,000 but number of public DC Quick Charge stations will remain below 300 (CHAdeMO states 160 for U.S. as of 2013.07.05). That’s $1500+ of hardware not being used by a large percentage of LEAF’s on U.S. roads. Japan with a similar number of LEAF’s has over 1700 DC DC stations. By fall 2013, Tesla will deploy 400+ super charger points for 15,000+ S’s. Tesla unlike other charging station builders deploys 4-8+ charge points per station location.

    note: A 500 mile battery is less useful when nearest charge station is 650 miles away. 6.6 kW per hour Level 2 chargers are not very pragmatic for highway travel (providing about 20 miles range per hour of charge time)